Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Lilly Ledbetter

You’ll take lower pay, ladies, and you’ll like it

From Lisa Falkenberg;

Over at the Wall Street Journal, a 25-year newsroom union pay analysis found women earning 13.2 percent less, a finding that prompted the chief executive of parent company Dow Jones and Co. to vow an urgent review of salaries.

Back in Texas last week, Gov. Greg Abbott gave a decidedly less urgent response when a reporter asked about equal pay.

Abbott said it will happen as more women reach top posts in Texas businesses and start enterprises of their own, the Houston Chronicle’s Bobby Cervantes reported.

Ah, but there’s the rub, part of it anyway: promotion. It would have been the perfect moment for the governor to encourage businesses to promote more qualified women. But he failed to make the point, or, to make any sense at all.

“It’s essential that women get more involved in the business arena and that women be able to elevate pay in Texas,” Abbott was quoted as saying. “It’s going to be women who are going to be getting the pay and charting the course.”

Huh. Yeah.

Abbott’s non-answer was particularly hollow given the setting: he was announcing the expansion of his Commission for Women, increasing the number of women on the panel and ordering it to tackle weighty issues such as STEM-based education and access to health care.

Important issues, sure. Missing from the list: equal pay.

[…]

During his campaign against state Sen. Wendy Davis, Abbott acknowledged that he agreed with former Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to veto a state version of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay act. He argued women are already protected federally, but proponents of the legislation said it would have made suing over pay in state courts cheaper and faster for Texans.

Given the bill’s narrow scope, it wouldn’t have made a dent in pay inequity in Texas. But publicly opposing the bill sent a message about the former attorney general’s priorities.

That message came just as the San Antonio Express-News’ Peggy Fikac reported that female assistant attorneys general in Abbott’s office, on average, were paid less than men in the same classification. Abbott’s office cited the men’s experience, but the figures it provided showed there wasn’t always a direct correlation.

As Fikac reported: In several categories, women, on average, had more years of service, had been licensed longer, or both, but were paid less.

Abbott may truly believe there’s nothing government, outside of the courts, can and should do about equal pay. If so, he’s wrong.

The problem has many causes, from men and women choosing different jobs, to women bearing more family responsibilities, to women’s reluctance to negotiate, to real cognitive bias: the perception that women aren’t as competent or don’t work as hard.

Joseph Fishkin, a law professor at the University of Texas who focuses on employment discrimination, also mentions the “maternal wall,” which he describes as “the way we set up jobs and career paths to make it impossible to advance while having serious family responsibilities.”

Fishkin says government could do a lot about the gap if it wanted to. It doesn’t have to be passing the nation’s toughest equal pay law, as California did. Although that would be nice. For one: paid family leave and/or paid sick days, which would allow more women to stay in jobs and advance while caring for family.

Fishkin also mentions supporting a higher minimum wage, which would reduce the pay gap at the bottom, since those workers are overwhelmingly women.

Conveniently enough, Greg Abbott opposes all of those possible remedies. So we could say that he supports equal pay for women the same way he supports improving access to health care by opposing Medicaid expansion.

From the DMN editorial board:

A data crunch by The Morning News’ J. David McSwane this weekend revealed that if you are a woman, you’re making less than the white male colleague sitting right next to you doing a similar job. If you happen to be a minority woman, you’re making even less — particularly in higher-level jobs.

Not only is that blatantly unfair, but it’s been illegal for more than 50 years.

Even more troubling: Over the last decade, Texas’ gender gap has only widened.

Today, women in government make 92 cents for every $1 a white man makes, down 2 cents from 2006, The News’ report showed. Black women make 84 cents, down 2 cents. And Hispanic women make 82 cents, down 5 cents.

It’s obvious what that does to a paycheck today; just imagine how that inequity is compounded over time. And the effect it has on a woman trying to envision long-term career growth.

How’d we get here? The inequities are caused by an economic stew, including that women more often sign up for lower-paying jobs and white men more often get top-paying jobs.

Take a look at the recent recruiting and hiring done at Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office. Instead of posting two of the highest-paid positions in his office — as state law dictates — Paxton personally approached two hand-picked outsiders for the jobs. Both white men.

Paxton, the state’s top law-enforcement official, says the law allowed him the flexibility to simply appoint Jeff Mateer to assistant attorney general and Marc Rylander to communications director without opening the top jobs to others.

That smacks of cronyism. And such an unlevel playing field — where a qualified woman or minority never even had an opportunity to apply — points to one reason women’s paychecks still lag behind.

And hey, great news: Paxton just hired another crony to be his Chief of Staff. Because clearly there was no one within the office of the AG who was qualified for the job. That’s just the way these things work out, you know? But don’t worry, I’m sure the magic of the free market will solve this problem any day now.

California AG office does better on pay equity than Texas AG office

That’s gotta sting.

Female lawyers in the California state prosecutor’s office don’t fall as far behind their male counterparts in pay as do female lawyers in the Texas attorney general’s office, according to a Texas Tribune analysis.

Since March, the question of equal pay has been a key issue in the Texas gubernatorial contest between Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis and Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott. Davis has criticized Abbott for not paying female lawyers in his office as much as men. Abbott has deflected the criticism, saying he believes women should be paid as much as men.

The Tribune gathered payroll information from California and Texas, and compared the differences in median and average pay for male and female lawyers at both prosecutors’ offices. Though each state’s agency has some unique responsibilities, both are charged with representing their respective states in litigation and with serving as legal counsel to state agencies, boards and commissions.

The comparison, which took seven weeks to complete because California did not immediately turn over relevant information, revealed that while there were some discrepancies in compensation for male and female lawyers at both state agencies, Texas female lawyers fell further behind than their California counterparts.

See here for the background. The shame of it all, for Greg Abbott to be bested by California. In the grand scheme of things this isn’t much, just another anecdote in a long story. But still, losing to California. The horror, the horror.

No, there won’t be a flood of equal pay lawsuits in Texas

There wasn’t one before, when the federal Lilly Ledbetter Act passed. There’s no reason to believe there will be one if a state version of the Ledbetter law is approved.

Candidates for statewide office have wrangled recently over an effort to address sex-based wage discrimination by extending the window for lawsuits. But as the campaigns have kicked up dust, the issue has gotten cloudy.

Opponents of the proposed Texas Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which Gov. Rick Perry vetoed last year, say it duplicated federal law and would increase unfounded lawsuits. Meanwhile, Democrats say conservatives are standing in the way of equal pay for women.

Experience with the federal law, which was enacted in 2009, suggests both claims are overblown. The federal law hasn’t brought about a flood of frivolous discrimination charges. But there’s little evidence that the pay gap between men and women has narrowed.

The issue of equal pay is important, but the Ledbetter act is “a very narrow fix,” said University of Texas professor Joseph Fishkin, who teaches discrimination law. Among the reasons it hasn’t had much impact, he said, are that pay gaps are driven in part by difference in education and types of job. But the fight, Fishkin said, is nonetheless significant.

“This has become an argument between the parties about equal pay in general. That’s a good discussion to have,” he said. “I don’t think the Ledbetter act is a cure-all, but it is a focal point. The politics go beyond this bill, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”

[…]

“There’s no indication that the Ledbetter act would increase lawsuits,” said Fatima Goss Graves, vice president of education and employment at the National Women’s Law Center, which supported the federal measure. “It hasn’t at the federal level, and there’s no indication that it would do so in Texas. It certainly wouldn’t increase the number of lawsuits without merit.”

The number of charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which handles claims of wage discrimination on the federal level, didn’t increase substantially after President Barack Obama signed the Ledbetter law.

Data from the EEOC going back to 1997 shows that an average of 250 charges a year originated in Texas before the act passed. Afterward, the state averaged 259. The most came in 2002, when 339 sex-based wage discrimination charges originated in Texas.

The charges represent complaints made under both the Equal Pay Act of 1964, which targets sex-based wage discrimination specifically, and broader provisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, and national origin.

The numbers don’t include every charge filed, but they do present a picture of the Ledbetter act’s minimal impact on the volume of sex-based wage discrimination charges. Though women filing under the Equal Pay Act don’t have to go through the commission, “many charging parties do,” said EEOC spokeswoman Justine Lisser.

The Ledbetter act reinstated a long-standing position by the commission that the 180-day time frame to file wage discrimination lawsuits starts over with each individual discriminatory paycheck, Lisser said, explaining the lack of an increase in charges.

Not really a whole lot to add to this. Litigation is never an easy path to take, and hand-wringing about “frivolous” lawsuits, especially in a state as hostile to (non-corporate) plaintiffs as Texas, is just fearmongering. The reason a state law is needed when a federal law exists, as Katherine Haenschen patiently explains to Matt Mackowiak, is that a state law makes bringing a suit just a little easier for someone who has been wronged. Not easy, mind you, just easier. Fixing the underlying problem will take a lot more of that, and most of the things that will be needed to accomplish that will likely be even less palatable to Mackowiak and the interests he represents. No one ever said life was fair, fellas.

Just a reminder, the Ledbetter bill was bipartisan

I mean, it had to be bipartisan to pass in the Lege, but let’s keep that in mind as the debate continues.

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson

Rep. Senfronia Thompson

After 42 years in the Texas House, Rep. Senfronia Thompson has earned a nickname – “Miz T” – that evokes equal parts respect, affection and fear. When she filed the Texas version of the Lilly Ledbetter Act to promote equal pay last session, “Miz T” called some old friends at the Texas Civil Justice League, a business group dedicating to fighting lawsuit abuse, and drafted them as allies.

Aided by the group’s credibility with conservatives – and by the force of her own personality – the Houston Democrat gained bipartisan support for the measure and it narrowly passed, although her efforts eventually fell victim to Gov. Rick Perry’s veto pen.

Now, the issue has resurfaced in the Texas governor’s race, with Republican nominee Greg Abbott saying he would veto the bill if it is passed again. His comments drew a rebuke from Democratic nominee Wendy Davis, who had sponsored the bill in the Texas Senate.

The GOP candidates for lieutenant governor also jumped into the fray this week. Incumbent David Dewhurst tweeted that Davis’ bill would have “unleashed torrents of lawsuits,” while his challenger, Houston Sen. Dan Patrick, said the government should stay out of the issue.

Some political observers, however, say conservatives may be having a knee-jerk reaction against the Lilly Ledbetter legislation simply because it was championed by President Barack Obama, and Davis, a rising Texas Democratic star. The policy it advances is not that controversial, they argue.

The vote favoring the bill “can absolutely be defended on conservative grounds,” says TCJL general counsel George Christian, whose group helped win passage of Thompson’s bill. “I would urge stepping back and taking another look.”

Lisa Maatz, vice president for government relations for the American Association of University Women, called Dewhurst’s claim that the law would unleash a torrent of lawsuits “a tired argument.” The predicted “torrent” has not occurred since the federal bill was signed into law in 2009, she said.

Emphasis mine. I think there’s a lot to this; we’ve all seen how a health care law that had its genesis in the Heritage Foundation has become synonymous with socialism. The question is whether people who once crossed the aisle to support it will continue to do so or if they’ll be swayed back by partisan considerations. The original bill passed by a 78-61 margin in the House after being amended in the Senate. Here’s the record vote of the House concurrence of the Senate changes. In addition to 53 Democrats (Anchia and Burnam were absent), these Republicans voted for final passage:

Anderson; Aycock; Bohac; Crownover; Dale; Darby; Davis, S.; Geren; Harless; Huberty; King, S.; Kuempel; Lozano; Otto; Patrick; Ratliff; Riddle; Ritter; Sheffield, J.; Sheffield, R.; Smith; Villabla; Workman; Zerwas

Some of these folks are not coming back – Pitts retired, while Patrick, Ratliff, and Ralph Sheffield all lost primaries. That might make passage in the House trickier when it comes up again in 2015; of the No votes, only Linda Harper-Brown and Stefani Carter, both of whom are in primary runoffs, might get replaced by a Democrat, while the retiring Craig Eiland could be replaced by a no-voting Republican. Lord only knows what might happen in the Senate, too, but the point is that we need to keep an eye on the overall attitudes. As with evangelicals and contraception, attitudes do change. We should keep track of that and note when they do change, so we can remind ourselves that it wasn’t always this way.

Rick Perry feels your pain, ladies

You know what you ladies need? A big heaping dose of Rick Perry explaining to you why all this “equal pay” stuff is so silly.

Corndogs make bad news go down easier

Corndogs are for real men

Rick Perry said today it’s “nonsense” to focus on equal pay for women when there are other more important pressing issues like job creation and cutting regulations for business. Perry made the rounds of the morning cable shows Tuesday in New York on his “I’m the Jobs Governor” tour in advance of the 2016 presidential race. Perry stumbled badly in his last race for the White House. But he says he’s looking at another run. “I used to be bucked off those ponies all the time, and my dad would say, ‘Son, get back on.’”

[…]

On the MSNBC show “Morning Joe,” Perry defended his decision to veto the bill. “Why do we need to muddle up our statutes when we already have laws on books that clearly take care of this?” said Perry. Federal law allows women to sue for equal pay when the discrimination is discovered. State law makes it harder to file suit. Women must go to court within 180 days after the discrimination began, not when it’s discovered. The bill was designed to give women filing suit in state court the same opportunity as in federal court. Perry and Abbott say that’s unnecessary.

Perry says women have fared well in his administration: “I’ve probably had more female chiefs of staff than anybody in Texas history and they get paid well because of the performance they do. I support and lift up women in the state of Texas.” As for the Davis/Abbott dustup over equal pay, Perry said, “If they want to talk about substantive issues in this governor’s race, then let’s talk about tax policy and regulatory policy. But to go focus on this issue, a piece of legislation that we already have laws that protect, is nonsense.”

So buck up, little cowgirls. Rick Perry and Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick know what you really need to care about. Don’t you feel so much better now?

We have ways of making you talk

Poor Greg.

A code of silence sounds pretty good right now

Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, under fire for dodging the details on some policy questions, is filling in the blanks on issues that could be key in his race for governor against Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis.

The answers are coming as Abbott faces pressure not only from Davis but from the potential fallout of a fight within his own party.

[…]

The fact that Abbott is talking specifics at all shows the issues are having an impact. His campaign has its own timetable for rolling out proposals, and he still hasn’t answered all the questions that Davis has brought to him.

For example, Abbott won’t say if he agreed with 2011 school funding cuts. Davis filibustered those cuts and worked with other lawmakers to restore funding last year. Abbott, whose office is defending the school finance system in court, says he’s focused on the future and will have a comprehensive education plan.

Abbott also won’t say if he thinks he made a mistake by campaigning with rocker Ted Nugent, although he said Nugent was right to apologize for calling President Obama a “subhuman mongrel” (a comment that came before their campaign trip).

When and whether Abbott addresses those issues will depend on more than whether we want to know the answers.

“If they had their way, they would never talk to you unless they wanted to get a certain message out, and they needed you,” said Trinity University political scientist David Crockett, speaking of politicians and reporters in general.

For a frontrunner like Abbott, there’s particular risk, so speaking out means an issue is in play.

“The challenger has to be more aggressive, and the frontrunner is running more cautiously because it’s theirs to lose,” Crockett said. “If he starts talking about these things, it’s because there is a concern that they need to get it behind them. If they don’t see the Ted Nugent thing, for example, hurting them, they’re not going to talk about it.”

So. I guess this means the “Wendy Davis is running a bad campaign” meme is officially inactive now. I mean, if you’re forcing the other guy to do things he’d rather not have to do, that’s pretty strong prima facie evidence that you’re running a good campaign. Of course, Abbott is still trying his best to not talk about anything that isn’t in his comfort zone, which is limited to things that can be safely discussed at a Tea Party rally. Davis has had a great run with the equal pay issue, and she’s still pushing it.

After two weeks of debate in the Texas governor’s race over equal pay, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis on Monday renewed her criticism of Republican opponent Greg Abbott on the issue, saying that the attorney general’s statement that he supported the “concept” of equal pay for women wasn’t enough.

“I’ve never heard of a concept that could pay the rent, put food on the table or buy a tank of gas for the truck,” Davis said to a packed room of supporters during a campaign stop in Austin, where she reiterated several attacks that her campaign has directed at Abbott over his opposition to a Texas version of the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

This will and should be a centerpiece of her campaign, but it can’t be the only thing. There are many other issues, some of which are detailed in Peggy Fikac’s story like cuts to public education and the ongoing school finance litigation, and some of which aren’t like Medicaid expansion and raising the minimum wage, that Davis needs to press aggressively. Some of them are to pressure Abbott, some are to fire up the base. There’s a risk in talking about too many things, as too many people have too short an attention span, but unlike Abbott, Davis has been aware from the beginning that she can’t play it safe. She’s got to push, to do what she can to direct the narrative, and keep Abbott off balance and on the defensive. Keep working the equal pay pressure point – it’s a beautiful thing when you are clearly on the right side of an issue – but keep coming at Abbott from multiple angles as well. Make him talk about the things he’d rather no one asked him about. BOR has more.

So you want the federal government you keep suing to enforce that law you don’t support?

That would be Greg Abbott’s position on equal pay.

Still not Greg Abbott

Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott has let himself be out-wrestled on the sensitive issue of equal pay for equal work by Texas women.

His answer, according to a statement Wednesday from his campaign staff, is that women in the Lone Star State who are victims of employment discrimination can turn to the federal government for help.

As governor, he would veto any bill to provide as much help through state courts.

Abbott, remember, is “one of the nation’s leading advocates for stopping the federal overreach of the Obama Administration.” That’s the administration responsible for passing the law that helps victims of pay discrimination recover damages in federal court.

Now Abbott has made himself look like someone who either doesn’t care about Texas women who are paid less than men for similar work or who believes that his federal arch-enemy has done such a good job that Texas can’t make things any better.

I suppose Abbott’s still slightly better on this than Dan Patrick, who thinks that the ladies should just suck it up and trust the magic of the free market to ensure they get paid what they’re worth. Because that’s been such a great strategy for them historically. It sure has been marvelous watching the Abbott campaign squirm this week, hasn’t it?

No pay equity problems here

No sauce for the gander, either.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

Women in Democrat gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis’ Senate office last year averaged about $3,000 more in earnings than the male employees, according to data acquired by Austin bureau chief Peggy Fikac.

Out of 12 employees in Davis’ office, women averaged $43,050 and men averaged $40,378. There are six men and six women who work in Davis Fort Worth and Austin offices.

[…]

Equal pay for women has been the focus of the Texas governor’s race this week and the issue has placed the two candidates on starkly different sides of the issue. Abbott said as governor he would have vetoed the equal-pay legislation sponsored by Davis last year.

See here for the background. Davis has only 12 employees in her Senate office, while the AG’s office has over 7,000, so it’s not really a direct comparison. But it does nothing to derail the story line, and that’s the big thing. Abbott can strain to reach for a counter-argument, but he’s fighting on inherently hostile turf, and he’s his own worst enemy with his admission that he’d have vetoed the Ledbetter bill. He needs to change the subject, but this won’t go away. It’s a key difference between the two candidates, and it’s a relevant, resonant issue.

By the way, I’m sure you’ll be unsurprised to learn that Dan Patrick opposes the Ledbetter bill, too. “Women should be should be paid the same as a man, but I don’t believe government should enforce it,” Patrick said. You’re on your own, ladies! I recommend taking negotiation classes, if you can find the money to pay for them. Also, too, David Dewhurst doesn’t oppose Ledbetter, but he’s too wishy washy to come out and say it. Honestly, it’s like they’ve got Democratic saboteurs writing their position papers for them.

Abbott comes out for inequality

Turns out he’s been a practitioner of it for some time.

Still not Greg Abbott

Equal pay for women is in the spotlight of the Texas governor’s race, and figures from Attorney General Greg Abbott’s state agency show most female assistant attorneys general make less on average than do men in the same job classification.

Abbott’s office said the difference is explained by the amount of time that the men have been licensed as lawyers and have served at the agency.

But drilling down into different classifications of assistant attorney general, the figures provided by Abbott’s office show there isn’t always a direct correlation between such experience and pay.

And of the top 20 highest-paid employees at the agency, just three are women, February salary figures provided to the San Antonio Express-News show. Of the 100 top positions, 37 are held by women.

Abbott’s office said that since he became attorney general in December 2002, the number of female lawyers in his office has increased by 71, or 23 percent.

[…]

The Texas attorney general’s office has more than 4,000 employees, nearly 2,900 of them women. The office defends state laws, serves as legal counsel to state agencies and provides legal opinions, including hundreds of open records requests every year. The office also oversees the collection of court-ordered child support and administers the state crime victims compensation fund.

Overall, male employees make an average of $60,200 a year, and women make $44,708. Those averages, however, don’t take into account differing job classifications.

Looking at the 722 assistant attorneys general under Abbott, the average salary for 343 men is $79,464 while the average salary for 379 women is $73,649.

Abbott’s office said the men on average had more than 16 years of being licensed, while the women had nearly 14 years. The men had an average of nearly 104 months of service, while the women had more than 92 months, his office said.

Of seven different classifications of assistant attorneys general, the average salary for men is higher than the average salary for women in six of them, with the difference ranging from $647 to $4,452. In one category, the average salary for women is $3,512 higher than that for men.

In three categories, the women on average either had more years of service or had been licensed longer, or both, despite being paid less, according to figures from the attorney general’s office. In the latter case, the attorney general’s office noted the salaries were almost identical — the men’s average salary was $122,528, while the women made $647 less while having more experience.

In the one category of assistant attorney general in which women were paid more than men, the women on average had more years of service at the agency, but fewer years licensed.

[…]

Katie Bardaro, lead economist for Seattle-based PayScale, cautioned that a number of factors go into setting pay, even for people with the same job title. PayScale collects data from employees and people with job offers and conducts studies that include a look at men and women in the workforce.

“Even though they have the same title, it doesn’t mean they have the same characteristics. They might not have the same day-to-day responsibilities. They might not have the same years of experience, the same education, the same management responsibilities,” she said.

There’s something to what Ms. Bardaro says, but 1) if the male attorneys generally have the kind of duties and responsibilities that come with higher pay, that in itself is telling, and 2) one might expect there to be more examples of women having higher pay if this were just a matter of chance and distribution and not something systemic. Clearly, there’s a bunch of bad negotiators in that office. The bottom line is that this is a pretty inconvenient set of facts for a guy who’s trying to say that no, really, he does support equal pay.

And then there’s this.

Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott would have vetoed the equal-pay measure sponsored by his Democratic opponent for governor, state Sen. Wendy Davis, his campaign said Wednesday.

Abbott’s answer meets a key Davis campaign issue head on and puts the candidates squarely on opposite sides of it.

[…]

Davis has been pressing Abbott to say whether he would have vetoed the state version of the federal Lilly Ledbetter law if he were governor, just as GOP Gov. Rick Perry did last year.

The federal law, named after a woman who sued over pay discrimination, changed the statute of limitations in federal cases so that allegations could be brought 180 days after the last alleged discriminatory paycheck was received. Previously, the clock started running in federal cases when the discriminatory payments began.

Davis’ bill would have made the same change in state law. Backers said that would allow people to bring their cases in state court, a potentially quicker and less expensive avenue.

Abbott spokesman Matt Hirsch said in a statement, “Because wage discrimination is already against the law and because legal avenues already exist for victims of discrimination, Greg Abbott would have not signed this law.”

Asked whether Abbott would have vetoed the measure, Hirsch said yes.

Because why should they make it a little easier for someone who’s been getting screwed to seek justice? And to think, a few hours earlier Abbott was distancing himself from Republican Party of Texas Executive Director Beth Cubriel and her “women are bad negotiators” remark. Honestly, I don’t know what there is to say. PDiddie, BOR, Texpatriate, the Feminist Justice League, and the Observer have more.

The “grassroots” Republican Ladies Against Wendy movement

Christopher Hooks asks and answers a good question.

Who the heck are RedState Women? So far, they appear to be a motley collection of politically-connected lobbyists, ex-lobbyists and staffers of legislators who haven’t exactly distinguished themselves on women’s issues.

This morning, the Dallas Morning News‘ Wayne Slater noted the connection between RedState Women, Mike Toomey and Dave Carney—the latter two being longtime GOP insiders. But the RedState Women’s staff and board feature an even more eclectic crew.

There’s Lara Laneri Keel, the president of the group’s board, who writes in her bio that she’s “regarded as one of the top female lobbyist (sic) in Austin.” One of her clients: the private prison industry. Keel is a partner at the Texas Lobby Group, whose most prominent member is Toomey, a former Perry chief of staff and one of the governor’s closest associates. Keel is the cousin of Terry Keel, a former state representative and House parliamentarian, and wife of John Keel, former head of the Legislative Budget Board and current state auditor. Both Terry and John Keel were close associates of former House Speaker Tom Craddick.

There’s Cristen Wohlgemuth, a former lobbyist who now serves as chief of staff to state Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth), a tea party rep who voted against last session’s equal pay bill and co-sponsored the sweeping abortion restrictions that passed the Lege last summer. Wohlgemuth, the daughter of former state Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth, worked for famously fundamentalist former state Rep. Warren Chisum before Goldman. Both Chisum and Arlene Wohlgemuth were top Craddick lieutenants. Arlene Wohlgemuth is now executive director of the corporate-funded Texas Public Policy Foundation.

And there’s Mia McCord, a former fundraiser with the state GOP who’s the current chief of staff for state Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills).  As chairman of the Republican Policy Caucus in 2011, Hancock played an important role in decimating state funding for women’s health care programs.

Christman herself is the chief of staff to state Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) who was a key supporter of the effort to “defund Planned Parenthood” that ended up capsizing the whole system of women’s health care in the state.

Then there’s Tony Hernandez, the group’s treasurer, according to the only financial report. Hernandez is another lobbyist (he works with Keel at the Texas Lobby Group) and the only XY chromosome in the bunch. Hernandez has an even more eclectic past—before he came to Texas, he worked for Andrew Laming, the bro-tastic Australian politician, most famous for calling out Aborigines and Pacific Islanders for an addiction to “welfare on tap” and chugging beers while doing handstands for Australia Day this year. (“This is the way I chose to celebrate Australia Day,” Laming said, Australian-ly. “I chose to drink my beer upside down.”)

It’s a strange group—not the dream team you might have assembled for a Texas women’s advocacy group. But they’ve been earning a lot of headlines. RedState Women launched its website on Wednesday after giving Politico a sneak peek, and earned a cameo in a recent Wall Street Journal story about women voters. As a PAC, the group will presumably be raising and spending money on candidates. But the most important role RedState Women will play this election cycle, it seems, will be in messaging.

“Christman” is Cari Christman, of “ladies are too busy for equality” fame. Between that and the “ladies should learn to be better negotiators” claim, the more messaging we get from folks like this, the better. Be that as it may, the point here is that this isn’t some genuine movement by real people who feel their voices aren’t being heard. It’s the usual assortment of privileged and connected people claiming to speak for people whose interests they don’t actually represent. In the meantime, we still don’t know what Greg Abbott himself thinks about this; he’s been too busy to speak for himself. Keep trotting those surrogates out there, Greg, they’re doing a heck of a job for you. Daily Kos has more.

Equality is just too much work

It’s spring break, I have family in town, so I’m just going to outsource this to Team Wendy:

On equal pay, Texas GOP PAC sends a “busy” signal

Houston Chronicle // Siobhan O’Grady
Just one week after Greg Abbott, Texas’ attorney general and the GOP’s nominee for the state’s gubernatorial race, skirted around a question on equal pay, the executive director of the Lone Star State’s newest Republican PAC stumbled through her response to a similar question in a television interview on Sunday.

Red State Women Director: Texas Women Too ‘Busy’ For Equal Pay Law

Talking Points Memo // Catherine Thompson

Cari Cristman, the executive director of Red State Women PAC, was asked in an interview with Dallas TV station WFAA about Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s (R) position on equal pay laws. Abbott, who is running for governor against state Sen. Wendy Davis (D), previously told the news station that existing law was sufficient to protect women’s pay.

Are Ladies Just Too Busy for the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act?

Jezebel // Kelly Faircloth

Salon reports that this fascinating line of argument comes via Cari Christman, who heads Texas’s Red State Women PAC. Local ABC affiliate WFAA asked whether her organization believes Texas needs an equal pay act. This has become an issue in the state gubernatorial race, as Wendy Davis faces off against former attorney general Greg Abbott. In his last gig, he convinced the Texas Supreme Court that the Lily Ledbetter Act-which gives women longer to file gender discrimination claims after leaving a job-didn’t alter Texas’s statue of limitations.

Head of GOP PAC targeting women: GOP doesn’t support equal pay laws because “women are busy”

Salon // Katie McDonough

As Laura Bassett at the Huffington Post points out, Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis has been making Republican opponent Greg Abbott’s record on equal pay a focus of her campaign. As attorney general, Abbott successfully argued before the Texas Supreme Court in a lawsuit brought by a female professor that the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extended the statute of limitations in such cases, didn’t change Texas’ state statute of limitations.

Awkward: GOP women’s PAC leader says women too “busy” to need equal pay laws

Raw Story // David Edwards

During a Sunday interview with WFAA’s Inside Texas Politics, host Jason Whitely told RedState Women Executive Editor Cari Christman that Democrats had accused Republicans of “hitting the panic button” and launching the PAC in the final months before the 2014 elections after gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott was criticized for campaigning with Ted Nugent. Whitely also pointed out that Abbott had recently said that Texas did not need new laws to protect women against pay discrimination.

Red State Women leader says Texas doesn’t need equal pay law

Dallas Morning News // Christy Hoppe

Last week, on the same show, GOP nominee Greg Abbott declined to answer whether he also would have vetoed the equal pay act, called the Lilly Ledbetter Act, named after the federal version of the law. Three years ago, Abbott’s office successfully argued before the Texas Supreme Court that federal equal pay protections do not apply in Texas. The 2012 decision determined that a female college professor did not have the right to sue because she discovered the alleged discriminatory pay more than 180 days after she was hired. The Lilly Ledbetter Act provides that a suit can be filed within 180 days of a woman discovering the pay discrepancy.

Head Of GOP Women’s PAC Flubs Equal Pay Question

Huffington Post // Laura Bassett

Democratic candidate Wendy Davis has been going after Abbott on equal pay in recent weeks. In addition to dodging the question of whether he supports equal pay, the Davis camp points out, he actively fought against it during his career as Texas Attorney General. Abbott successfully argued before the Texas Supreme Court in Prairie View A&M University vs. Chatha that federal equal pay protections did not apply in Texas, so a female college professor who was paid unfairly did not have the right to sue more than 180 days after the discrimination began.

So yeah. Not a good day for Team Abbott and their outreach to the women.

Unfair pay

Patricia Kilday Hart uncovers some skulduggery in one of Rick Perry’s vetoes.

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson

Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a bill that would have let victims of wage discrimination sue in state court after receiving letters against the measure from the Texas Retailers Association and five of its members, mostly grocery stores, according to records obtained by the Houston Chronicle.

Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, who authored HB 950 mirroring the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, said she unaware that the group and the businesses opposed her bill, or that they sought a gubernatorial veto.

Among the businesses advocating for a veto was Kroger Food Stores.

“I shop at Kroger’s for my groceries,” Thompson said. “I shopped there just last week. I’m going to have to go to HEB now. I am really shocked.”

Also writing to seek a veto were representatives of Macy’s, the Houston grocery company Gerland Corp., Brookshire Grocery Company, Market Basket, the Texas Association of Business and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

Here’s HB950, which received 26 Republican votes in the House on third reading. I take no pride in noting that I predicted the veto, though I did so on the usually reliable grounds of Rick Perry being a jerk. I had no idea that he had help in that department this time.

Two other prominent business groups – the Texas Association of Business and the National Federation of Independent Businesses – also wrote Perry urging a veto, but those groups opposed publicly during committee hearings. Thompson said she heard “not one time” from any of the retailers.

In his veto proclamation, Perry did not mention the opposition of any business groups, but cited Texas’ positive business climate as a reason to oppose the bill: “Texas’ commitment to smart regulations and fair courts is a large part of why we continue to lead the nation in job creation. House Bill 950 duplicates federal law, which already allows employees who feel they have been discriminated against through compensation to file a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.”

In his request for a veto, Ronnie Volkening, president and CEO of the Texas Retailers, said the bill was “unnecessary, in that existing law provides adequate remedies against employment discrimination; and harmful, in that it undermines opportunities for timely resolution of employment dispute in favor of fomenting expensive and divisive litigation.”

[…]

The retailers complained to Perry that under HB 950, the statute of limitations would be reset every time a worker received a retirement check. Not so, said Thompson, who said she rewrote the bill to exclude retirement benefits to win Republican support in the Texas Senate.

“They didn’t read the bill or someone get them the wrong information,” she said.

Gary Huddleston, Kroger’s director of consumer affairs, said he relied on the retailers association for his information on the bill. “I regret that Representative Thompson is upset and I am sure Kroger, along with the Texas Retailers Association, would like to discuss the issue with her,” he said.

Yo, Gary. You think maybe the time to “discuss the issue” with Rep. Thompson might have been during the session, when the bill was being written, heard in committee, and voted on? Because at this point, Rep. Thompson would be fully justified in discussing the issue of putting her foot up your rear end.

Let me refer once again to Nonsequiteuse for the reasons why this bill was a good idea and a necessary law.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a federal law, doesn’t mandate that women should receive equal pay for equal work, and it doesn’t make it illegal to discriminate (another law takes care of that). It is a more technical law that deals with the amount of time someone has to file a lawsuit if they discover that they are facing pay discrimination.

The law used to be that you had a relatively short period of time from the first time you were paid unequally. So, you are hired for a job on January 1st, and get your first paycheck on the 5th (I know, bear with me), and it turns out you are being paid less than a man doing the exact same job. Before this act, you were presumed to know that and to have only 180 days to file a lawsuit to remedy it. If you didn’t discovery the discrimination until the following January (or even the following October, or whenever 180 days is from January 5th), you were out of luck.

Realistically, of course, we all know that no one walks around on day 5 of a new job comparing paychecks. People are socialized not to talk about salary, and some companies (and I’ve always wondered if this is legal) explicitly tell you not to talk about salary.

The outcome, of course, was that if you didn’t learn early in the game that you were being discriminated against, you were out of luck, and your employer got away with it.

The Lilly Ledbetter Act changes the game, and says the statute of limitations starts afresh with each discriminatory paycheck. So, as long as you’re getting a discriminatory paycheck, you have a cause of action.

In other words, as long as the employer is violating your rights, you have a chance to remedy the situation in court.

Seems fair, doesn’t it? I mean, nowhere in life do we say that if you break the rules long enough without anyone noticing that you get a free pass, so why would we do it with discriminatory pay?

Note that this law isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be able to prove discriminatory pay. It merely extends your time frame for filing a lawsuit.

The allowance to file in either state or federal court is important, too. State courts are less expensive and easier to access–consider that every county has a courthouse, but few have federal ones (just 29 places for federal courts to meet in Texas).

It’s about making it just a tad bit harder to screw the little guy. I’m not surprised that Rick Perry couldn’t care less about that – he has a long and established record of not caring about that sort of thing – and his heir apparent Greg Abbott has a similar record of indifference. While I can’t say it’s surprising that these business interests would go skulking about under what they hoped would be the cover of darkness to maintain their unfair advantage over their workers, it is nonetheless shocking and appalling, and it deserves to come with a price tag attached. To that end, there is a push to boycott Macy’s and Kroger until they reverse their stance on this. Rep. Thompson and Sen. Sylvia Garcia have already canceled events at Macy’s having to do with the annual sales tax holiday as a result of this. I never know how much to expect from this kind of action, but I fully support making sure people know what the businesses they support are up to when they think we’re not looking. The long term answer is of course to elect better legislators and especially better Governors, which is much harder to do but will reap much bigger rewards. In the meantime, go ahead and heap all the shame you can on the retailers that pushed for this veto. They deserve every bit of it. BOR, Stace, PDiddie, Texas Leftist, and Progress Texas have more.

Perry goes on a veto spree

NO

Here’s the full list. Among the victims are the omnibus ethics bill HB217, thus giving Allen Blakemore his fondest wish; two bills aimed at reducing the number of standardized tests some students must take, one of which will make William McKenzie happy; SB15, which would have placed new limits on the power of the University of Texas System Board of Regents to fire campus presidents; a Dan Patrick gun bill (!); the Lilly Ledbetter bill as previously noted; a bill that would have allowed voters to pick an interpreter of their choice, within certain limits, while voting, a bill that Perry either misread or misrepresented; and quite a few others, not to mention the funding for the Public Integrity Unit.

Here are some reactions to the vetoes from the Chron:

Friday, the Austin-based Texans for Public Justice filed a legal complaint that Perry’s threat amounted to official coercion so he could win an appointment and short-circuit the unit’s investigation into the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

“No surprise Perry would act to de-fang the state’s corruption watchdog. It’s a watchdog that might bite him and his cronies,” said Craig McDonald, TPJ director. “Our legal complaint against his bullying tactics remains in play, however.”

McDonald and Tom Smith, director of the Texas office of Public Citizen, also faulted Perry’s veto of a bill reforming the Texas Ethics Commission. “Perry’s office is an ethical black hole,” said McDonald. “Reforms go in. Nothing comes out.”

Smith pointed out that the bill would have required Railroad Commission Barry Smitherman, a Perry appointee, to resign his office before running for attorney general. “It is stunning that the governor is so intent on protecting one ambitious politician that he would veto a bill that drastically improved enforcement at the Texas Ethics Commission.”
Whether any of this represents Perry reasserting himself (again) in preparation for his next election or just a last middle finger to the rest of us before he rides off into the sunset on the wingnut welfare wagon I couldn’t say. Texas Vox bemoans the veto of the omnibus ethics bill, and I’m sure there will be plenty of other reactions, just in time for Perry to gallivant off to New York. What bills on the veto list – or not on the veto list – surprised you, one way or the other?

[…]

Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, chairman of the Senate Higher Education committee, filed Senate Bill 15 after a February dust-up over whether University of Texas System regents had micromanaged or maligned the character of UT Austin President Bill Powers. UT Regents Chairman Gene Powell has denied those allegations.

“Limiting oversight authority of a board of regents … is a step in the wrong direction,” Perry wrote in his veto. “History has taught us that the lack of board oversight in both the corporate and university settings diminishes accountability and provides fertile ground for organizational malfeasance.”

Seliger expressed frustration that Perry vetoed the bill, saying he had accepted all changes suggested by the governor’s staff.

“It is duplicitous,” he said.

In vetoing the Lilly Ledbetter Act, Perry wrote that “Texas’ commitment to smart regulations and fair courts is a large part of why we continue to lead the nation in job creation. House Bill 950 duplicates federal law, which already allows employees who feel that have been discriminated against through compensation to file a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.”

“I thought Gov. Perry always wanted us to do things the Texas way and not the federal way, but apparently not in this case,” Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, said in a statement. “Now, Texas women will have no choice but to rely on the federal government to protect their rights. The governor took office at the dawn of the 21st Century, but you wouldn’t know it from his actions today.”

Rick Perry does what is best for Rick Perry. There are no other considerations. Whether all this is a sign of him asserting his power in preparation for his next campaign or just a parting middle finger to the rest of us as he prepares to ride off into the sunset on the wingnut welfare wagon, I couldn’t say.

Other reactions to Friday: Texas Vox bemoans the veto of the omnibus ethics bill. Grits is bewildered by the veto of one de-incarceration bill, and games out the ploy to defund the Public Integrity Unit. Burka is relieved that things weren’t any worse. Texas Watch applauds the signing of three bills designed to improve transparency for Texas home and auto insurance customers. Juanita is spitting mad at the veto of the Lilly Ledbetter bill. Texpatriate summarizes the whole day’s activity. Egberto Willies talks to Rep. Senfronia Thompson, the author of the Lilly Ledbetter bill, about Perry’s veto. She vows to bring the bill back next session. What vetoes and signatures surprised or didn’t surprise you?

Senate approves redistricting bills

As pro forma as they wanna be.

The Texas Senate voted to ratify court-drawn political maps that were used for legislative and congressional races in 2012. The bills now head to the House.

In party-line votes, Senators voted 16-11 to approve the interim maps for congressional and state House districts. The map of the state’s 31 Senate districts passed with unanimous consent.

Senate Redistricting Chair Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, defended the maps against criticism and questions from Senate Democrats.

“As I’ve said before, I believe this map is fair and legal,” Seliger said on the Senate floor, referring to the Congressional map.

[…]

But after several hearings from around the state on the pros and cons of the court-drawn lines, Senate Democrats questioned why Seliger was blocking efforts to change the Congressional and House district maps. State Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, said members of the redistricting committee had privately told her that Seliger had refused to consider any changes to the maps.

Seliger said no redistricting map is going to please everybody.

Near the end of a lengthy back and forth, state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, accused Seliger of admitting to refuse to consider input from critics of the maps.

“That may be what you thought you heard me say but it may not be what I thought I said for you to hear me say,” Seliger said.

I’m not even going to try to parse that last sentence. Hard to believe that some unnamed sources once thought that a deal to create more minority opportunity districts might be in the works, isn’t it? The bills will go to the House on Monday and be summarily approved some time next week. Texas Redistricting has more on this action. In the meantime, both chambers can now get down to the real business of regulating vaginas, which is about the only thing some of them ever wanted to do. There were some hearings in the Senate on Thursday on the anti-abortion uber-bill, which was voted out of committee on Friday shortly after the redistricting business was over, but I just can’t bring myself to write about it. Go read the Observer and BOR for the depressing details – I recommend having a drink handy when you do. Oh, and Rick Perry also vetoed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It sure is a great time to be a lady in Texas, isn’t it?

Lege passes a Lilly Ledbetter bill

This is some fine work, but it’s a little early to be giddy about it.

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson

State Rep. Senfronia Thompson

A bill that seeks to prevent pay discrimination against women narrowly passed the Texas Senate on Wednesday.

“Employers who are doing the right thing and treating women fairly don’t view this bill as a threat,” said state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, who sponsored the bill in the Senate. “Equal pay decisions should be made in the CEO’s office rather than a courtroom.”

House Bill 950, by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, would make Texas law mirror protections of the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. It sparked a gender fight in the House last month, and it squeaked out of the Senate with a vote of 17-14. Senators added two amendments to the bill, which means it must return to the House for approval if it is to go to Gov. Rick Perry’s desk for approval.

The measure clarifies that pay discrimination claims based on “sex, race, national origin, age, religion and disability” accrue whenever an employee receives a discriminatory paycheck. Under the measure, a 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit resets with each new discriminatory paycheck.

Texas is the 43rd state to pass such an act.

The bill would change Texas Labor Code by making the state statute of limitations the same as the federal law, giving those who have been discriminated against more time to collect damages.

One change to the bill, made by state Sen. Robert Deuell, R-Greenville, would limit the equal protection rights to wages, and not to benefits or other compensation. Another change came from state Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, and it would require that the act apply only to claims that occur on or after the law takes effect in September.

I don’t want to minimize the achievement of Rep. Thompson, who’s worked to pass a bill like this for ten years, or Sen. Wendy Davis, who shepherded this through the Senate, but I fear this bill will be a juicy veto target for Rick Perry. It’s a Democratic bill, expressing Democratic values, modeled on legislation passed by the most Democratic Congress in recent memory in response to a very business-friendly SCOTUS ruling. I guess Perry could get some warm fuzzies for being sensitive to women’s issues by signing this, but how does this help him in a primary against Greg Abbott or in the 2016 Presidential primary, assuming he’s interested in one or both of these races? If it really is his plan to get on board the right wing gravy train ride off into the sunset then sure, maybe he’ll sign it. If not, or if he is the petty little SOB we all think he is, then he’ll veto. I hope I’m wrong, but that’s what I expect. A statement from Sen. Davis is here, and BOR has more.